Preparing for Remote Working
- Plug directly into your internet service modem/router. If you think you don’t have a cable, try looking in your original computer/modem/router boxes if you still have them. They usually come with a cable and you may have collected some unwittingly over time.
- If online stores are still open, invest in a good router. I talk more about this in my article: “Forget a bandwidth upgrade! Try these 4 things to make the home internet experience better“. Consumer Reports came out with article echoing the things I’ve mentioned but better yet, they make product recommendations: https://www.consumerreports.org/home-office/work-from-home-covid-19-tech-that-will-make-it-easier/.
- If your router has a Quality of Service (QoS) feature, use it. Assign your work computer to the “highest” setting while making sure junior is watching TV on a lower QoS setting. Break out your router’s manual to find out if you can do this.
- Set any video, including video for a teleconference, to its lowest quality setting. Most video streaming services have a “download to device” feature which can make sure the device is not streaming while you’re trying to teleconference. Switching from HD to SD can save up to 25% of your bandwidth – article: “Netflix And YouTube Switch To SD To Ease Pressure On European Networks“
- Think you’re ready for your work teleconference? Test your changes to see how well you did. The Cisco Spark WebEx Network Test measures all pieces of your internet service, like packet loss and jitter, to make sure you’re ready; it’s not just about bandwidth! (more below in the “More On Bandwidth Testing” section)
- While you might not need a webcam, you’re going to need a really good headset (again, if you can still order one online). I talk more about this in my “PMI-SAC Remote Working Tips” article. Don’t forget to mute if you’re not talking while on a teleconference!
- Make sure your workspace is ready:
- Have a room with a door that can be closed and that is quiet. If you have young kids a lock that can be locked from either side is essential! (Assuming another adult is responsible for watching the kids)
- If you’ll be doing video meetings, ensure the background behind you is tidy.
- Have a proper desk and chair setup. Do your best to make it ergonomic.
- Wear something that makes you feel productive. For many people this means not wearing pajamas but if that’s not you, then you’re good!
- Keep consistent work hours as much as possible.
- Go outside at least once during the day; especially important for those who live in areas where vitamin D supplements are necessary.
- Exercise at least 30 minutes a day.
- Get used to thinking about what is the best way to communicate to your team members depending on your needs. For instance, if you need to discuss something right away and at length, instant messaging might not be the right forum. Know when to pick up the phone or start a teleconference.
- You’re going to have to develop your ability to pick up on tones people are using. You may have heard that if you lose one of your senses, another sense goes into “overdrive”. Well, the same with remote working. You don’t have the luxury of a physical presence. More on this subject and more via the article “These are the 7 reasons why working from home can make you a better communicator“.
- If you need 1-1 check-ins, schedule them. Don’t assume someone is going to stop by regularly; make that happen.
Wrapping Up on Preparing for Remote Working
I hope it’s clear that being good at working remotely doesn’t just happen. Preparing for remote working takes preparation and some skills development. Don’t beat yourself up though, it takes time. Try to make the changes gradually if you can.
Next Level Your Remote Work
It bears repeating: Have a good internet connection. If somebody can’t hear you properly, there is something wrong with the upload path. If you can’t hear them, it’s the download path. Ask a techy friend to help you out if you can. The Internet can have a problem all the way through a path (point A to B). But in general, the problem could be your wiring, your equipment or the Internet Service Provider’s (ISP) wiring or equipment.
Here’s a few things to know before you start.
Definition of the terms using a road analogy:
Bandwidth is # of lanes on the road.
Latency is “how long does it take to get there”.
Jitter is “out of X number of trips, how consistent is the time it takes to get there? (latency)”.
When we drive we are usually concerned about the time it takes (latency) and stops (jitter, which might make the trip longer). It’s rare somebody says “It’d be great if I had a 10 lane highway instead of this 2 lane road”. Pretty crazy that we focus so much on bandwidth right?
Some alternative internet tests to make sure your internet connection is ok:
https://packetlosstest.com/ This site measures connection up to 3 min in length if troubleshooting your connection, includes packet loss and jitter with a jitter graph)
https://speed.cloudflare.com/ This site provides in-depth statistical analysis of download, upload and includes jitter.
A custom PC is pretty much as good as it gets. Having an “instant click” PC is pretty handy! Great hardware, software and an operating system you have complete control over. All at a reduced price and each single part warrantied.
If you’re thinking “I wouldn’t even know where to begin” it’s good to know that you can hire somebody to build it for you and you’ll still save a bundle. I recommend having a techy friend, if you’re lucky enough to know one, build a specification list for a custom PC. There are computer stores that will accept a parts list and build it for you (for less than $100). You get a PC like it’s off the shelf but with savings of 150-400% (1.5-4x less).
More Remote Working Articles
For more remote working suggestions see:
- For an excellent multiple author tip compilation article see Working From Home Tips.
- For a focus on productivity and morale see 23 Essential Tips for Working Remotely.
- For a leaning towards beginners see Remote working tips for beginners.
- For artists: on how to work from home with a home studio.
- For important rules teams can adopt to maximize productivity and overcome limitations that offices allow us to workaround but become big problems when working remotely: “4 Work-From-Home Mistakes That Cost Businesses Thousands Of Dollars“.
About the Author
Trevor Textor has worked in various roles requiring remote work since 1997. Since 2014 he’s been supporting small, medium and large businesses as a freelancer (contingent labor) with a “swiss-army knife”-like suite of skills. In addition to setting up policy, procedures and technology for himself and his partner he has also met this need with clients in enabling their remote work. Trevor has been quoted by Reader’s Digest, NBC News, Reviews.com and MarketWatch.com regarding setting up appropriate Internet and WiFi service for remote work. Ask Trevor if he can help: https://www.textor.ca/contactme/.